Twelve Weeks, 5 Days ~ May 20, 2004
~ Past and Future
So, I had my midwife appointment last night. It went well, and best of all, we heard the heartbeat! Hooray!
I was definitely stressing the day of the appointment, wondering if all would be well, if we'd hear the heartbeat, if we'd have to go for an ultrasound, if . . . if, if, if. And I ended up TP checking again, too. Sigh. My past haunts me again.
But now I know, and there IS a little heart whooshing away in there. Gabe says it sounds like a car wash. Brendan doesn't want to talk about it. He's still a little shocked at the idea of baby, I think. He did check my tummy last night, though, looking for it. Very cute.
This was another one of the new midwives I saw, too. The last new one, really - they have three who do births, and another who now only does well-woman care and early womanhood classes for girls. She's the one who was there for Gabe and Bren's births, even though both were in hospitals instead of the birth center. She won't be there for this one, I think. Oh, well, the others are gems, too.
Hmmm. I guess I haven't talked about my previous birth experiences, so now seems like a fine time. I went over them briefly with the midwife last night, too, since she didn't know me.
Gabe was overdue. We had ended up scheduling an induction for 42 weeks and 2 days (Monday), because I didn't want to be induced early (before 42 weeks), and the backup OB agreed that as long as I went in daily for biophysical profiles, he'd hold off to Monday. They don't do scheduled inductions on weekends, but 'at need' ones were not a problem. If there was any sign that I needed to be induced early, we'd do so. Everyone agreed.
On Wednesday before that weekend, I started really trying to get things moving. I didn't go so far as to use castor oil, but I did have a spicy Mexican meal, and with my midwife's approval, a small glass of Port, and then took a ride over Monkey Hill (a cobblestone street) in my mom's car. Unfortunately, I didn't think ahead, and we took her (old, but still smooth) Mercedes. Not so bumpy a ride, oops! Will and I had already tried helping things along the night before - no go.
I also danced. I have been doing Middle Eastern dance since I was a child (my sister teaches it), and it is really well-suited to birthing. so I danced. For about three hours! And I talked to the baby, telling him why I wanted him to come out.
Nothing doing. So I ate, took a nap, and then stayed up past midnight talking to another sister on the phone (she's in Alaska). At 1 AM, I finally climbed into bed. At 1:15 AM, contractions started. No sleep for me!
From there, portions of the next few days were a blur. Just to give the framework, labor started early Thursday morning, and Gabe was born Sunday morning. Just over three days of labor. though thankfully, most of it was mild, or at least appeared so because of the effectiveness of the relaxation method I was using. (Bradley Method.) So it was long, but not at all awful. Only problem was I couldn't sleep for more than a few moments at a time, and I wasn't dilating! So after 66 hours of that, and trying everything we could think of (Jacuzzi, positions, stripping membranes, walking, etc.), we opted to transfer me to the hospital for an epidural - not for pain, because even as exhausted as I was, it didn't hurt all that much - but because without sleep, I'd never be able to push.
So I slept. And they topped up my epidural every two hours, and I slept some more. I also had some side effects from the epidural, the all-over itching, even inside my eyeballs (!), swelling, and more unpleasant discomfort to come afterwards. But it was still the right choice. And after I changed positions a few more times, Gabe finally lined himself up properly (he'd been coming down crooked, just a little), and we were off and running. From there, a normal labor, with textbook dilation, and a beautiful birth, all 8 lbs 12 oz of him.
I remember some things so clearly, even now - the images that sprung to my mind's eye during labor, of soft feathers drifting down around and inside me, cushioning my body from the worst of the discomfort. the spectral angelic hands, outlined in brilliant blue stars but otherwise transparent, that applied counterpressure to my pelvis from the inside. The frustration of being checked again, only to find that I was still only 1 cm dilated. The warmth and presence of my doulas, as they massaged my legs to keep Gabe's heart rate stable after the epidural apparently caused it to go haywire. My mom grinning at me from her spot against the wall, as she watched me transform from the river of life to the banks through which a new life flows into the world. the doubt that sprang to mind for a moment while pushing, that I wouldn't be able to do it, never, I couldn't, I wasn't strong enough, I wasn't doing it right enough. followed by Will's eyes filling with tears as he saw our son's head begin to emerge. In that moment, I knew I was doing it, I WAS, and I found the energy and will and strength to continue. I remember glancing to one side and swearing I could see sepia-toned shadows of women standing with me, all over the room, from all ages before me, bearing witness to another mother being born with her child. I remember Gabe's blue-black eyes locking onto mine as he was laid on my belly, and the wash of color that swept up his strong little body as he went from purple to pink in one breath. I remember my hand on him, and Will's hand on mine. I remember the sound of his voice, so deep for a baby - the nurses called him a 'gentleman' because of that voice.
Ah, what a great birth.
As powerful, potent, spiritual, and amazing as I found Gabe's birth to be, I wanted a few things to go differently the next time.
Like, a little shorter would be nice! I used to joke that if second labors are half as long as the first, I could look forward to a mere 40 hour labor the next time! WOO-HOO! My midwives countered that the next time, they'd expect about 8 hours, given that it took about 12-14 once things actually started moving. Still, I wasn't making bets without a little extra on my side. I opted to use hypnotherapy for Brendan's birth, because I'd read over and over that it tended to produce shorter labors than average. Okay, I like that! I also am a good hypnosis candidate, and have used it most of my life (from childhood) to manage fears, behaviors, and expectations. I bought some tapes, but then found that the birth center had HypnoBirthing classes. Cool! I was in.
So, with Brendan, things looked like they would go more the way I hoped. Until the day of his due date, when I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid), and was risked out of the birth center. That is, because of the risk of cord prolapse, which almost always requires an emergency c-section, and a slightly higher risk of placental abruption, which also would probably mean emergency c-section, no Birth Center birth for me this time, either. I cried on Will's shoulder when I found out. Literally. In the car, which isn't the most comfortable place to do that.
But I dealt, too. Okay, if that's the way it will be, that's the way it will be. We'd already gone through a breech scare (Brendan flipped to breech a few days before his due date - we used hypnotherapy to turn him back, and it worked perfectly!). I could handle this, too.
So we picked the hospital based on the backup OB we wanted. And I went into labor over lunch, kinda-sorta. It was mild contractions, nothing more than I'd had the last few days, so I ignored them. They were nothing, just enough to notice, not really FEEL. We did go in to the Birth Center to get a non-stress test done, to add to the reasons for not inducing me early - with polyhydramnios, they often want to induce early due to the pressure the fluid puts on the baby, but the neonatologist didn't see any reason to induce before 42 weeks in my case. despite the ultrasound that morning indicating that the baby was a good 10 lbs 10 oz, plus or minus a pound or two. Gabe had been big enough, and had been born without the typical cone head, which said to me that my pelvic opening was plenty big enough for a really big baby - so what if baby would have to mold a bit to get through, like 'regular' babies did? More than enough room.
At the Birth Center, in the middle of doing the non-stress test (or 'stress test', really, since I was contracting), my water broke. Will noted that it broke immediately after the midwife told us that she'd never had a bad birth as a transfer to that hospital. As soon as we accepted that the hospital was a good choice, things got moving for real.
Too bad the OB we'd selected was no longer on call by the time we got there. We got the hospital's backup OB. And we were as far from a good match as you can imagine.
I do feel bad for the OB. She walked in the door with one set of expectations, plans, usual approach. and met me. And Will. She had looked at my chart, had seen that I'd had a high 1 hour GTT (test for gestational diabetes), and that I had polyhydramnios and a huge baby (according to the ultrasound, which turned out to be wrong by a large margin). She didn't think she needed to look any further. She was certain she was looking at someone who had uncontrolled gestational diabetes. And along with that, the risks - large head and shoulders on the baby, risk of shoulder distocia (shoulder getting stuck in the birth canal), risk of serious lawsuit if she didn't do a c-section. not a pretty picture for her.
She tried to convince me to be as scared by what she saw as she was. I, however, knew that I had maintained my diet well, had gained nearly no weight at all in the last trimester (when women with GD typically gain a great deal), and could easily birth a big baby. She tried her best to scare me over to her perspective. Okay, she did scare me. But not enough to have a c-section that I truly believed I did not need, knowing my own chart and history. I knew that she hadn't really had time to digest my entire chart, she couldn't know my previous history, she hadn't seen my previous son. I had to balance her experience with mine. I declined her offer of a c-section. She didn't look happy at all. She broke my water 'the rest of the way' (I'd had a high leak), ordered Pitocin, and left. I'm sure she thought she'd see me later in the operating room.
Instead, she saw me about 4 1/2 hours later to catch my son as he nearly launched out of me. All 9 lbs 6 oz of him. So much for a guaranteed-at-least-10-lb-10-oz, as she'd tried to convince me.
I'd had a quiet, almost silent, calm, peaceful labor. Honestly, the labor was pretty nice, better than Gabe's. There was some work to do in those few hours - I had to overcome the fear the OB and staff had planted, that the baby was really too big for me. Blessings on Anne, my HypnoBirthing instructor, for working out a script on the fly to reinforce that no matter how big, my child was the perfect size for me. I also had to deal with nurses telling me that they'd turn up the Pitocin until I couldn't stand the pain anymore (as if that is a clinical marker of progress?), and mistrust of the staff when they went directly against my wishes at another point. But the nurses came around, quite suddenly, and encouraged me. and when I was hitting transition and didn't know it, and asked for an epidural 'to help relax my back' (as if that's what they're for! I had no PAIN, but I wanted an epidural?), my nurse was the one who said she didn't think I needed it. I'd spent 3 1/2 hours going from 4 cm to 4.5 cm dilated, so I was really just dejected
- add in transition doubt, and I was sure I couldn't do it on my own. But the nurse was right - in 40 minutes, I had gone from 4.5 to 10 cm, and then in another half an hour, my son was born.
I would also be remiss if I didn't give full credit to Will. As much as women will say that no man can 'really' help your baby be born, he did. He agreed with my assessment that I could do it, he kept the nurses in check, and he used his voice and touch to enhance the hypnotherapy to the maximum level. He was a genuine help, not just an emotional support. He's wonderful at being a birthing dad.
It was a different experience with Brendan, indeed. The labor was more centered, less fractured, less tiring. But the birth wasn't nearly the same. Having an OB I didn't trust or have faith in definitely detracted from the experience. But despite her presence, Brendan's birth still had some precious moments that will stay with me forever. I can remember the feel of my pelvic bones shifting as his head passed through (pressure, not pain, thanks to Will's touch and the HypnoBirthing script we'd worked out together). I remember Brendan's head sliding down, then slipping back inside me, gently moving forward a little more with each wave of pushing contractions. I remember breathing calmly, staying out of the way of my body for those pushes - not curled or crunch-faced, or straining, or counting, or holding my breath. just breathing, and letting each wave lift me gently an inch or so from the bed, my uterus and body doing their jobs in perfect harmony. I remember the slippery slither as he slipped from me, and immediately after, the amazing hot shape of his foot pressed against my leg. I remember him heavy on my belly, and the sudden heat spilling down my side as he peed on me, and my laugh that he had done so. I remember the rightness of him on my chest, being warmed skin to skin rather than in the incubator across the room, and the echo of the nurse saying, 'oh, yeah, skin-to-skin works better than the warmer, anyway!' in half-surprise that I'd offered my own body heat to warm my newborn child.
Oh, and the OB's admission that yes, I could indeed birth a 10-pound-plus baby without any trouble at all.
I didn't even say, 'I told you so'.
Such different experiences. I thought I knew how to get what I wanted, after the first. I saw my previous history, my past, and thought I could divine a future path that would lead me where I wanted to go.
I didn't expect to lose some of what I had along the way. Not that Brendan's birth was bad, really. Just not what I was seeking, either.
This time, I know enough to know that I don't know how to get what I want. My past doesn't give me enough information, not entirely. Some of that information will only exist in my future.
I am still seeking, and hoping that I can birth in the Birth Center this time. If not, I'll try for the first hospital, not the second, or maybe make sure that the backup OB I want is still there when I arrive. Whatever happens, I know it will be further different, neither just like the first, nor just like the second. They're in the past, and can neither be remedied nor replaced. Nor will they do more than serve as the roughest of templates for this one, just as the first and the second were their own, unique, different.
Ah, now that's what I remember from the last two pregnancies. looking forward to labor. Seeking into the past, my mother's history, my grandmother's, and her mother's, too. Seeking into the future, trying to construct the known obstacles in advance, work out my plans for getting around them, and trying to set up ways to handle things I do not yet know are there.
Past, future. And me, with this pregnancy, in the middle, balanced between the two.
And yet for now, I think I am content to be here, right now, hearing that mental echo of the whoosh-whoosh-whooshing little heart, inside that little body, inside of me.